SALT LAKE CITY – Jewish leaders claim Mormons continue to posthumously baptize Jews and Holocaust victims and will confront church leaders with a decade of frustration over what they call broken promises.
“We have proof, and we are bringing that,” said Ernest Michel, chairman of the New York-based World Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors.
The Mormon church has long collected names from government documents and other records for posthumous baptisms. Church members stand in for the deceased non-Mormons, a ritual the church says is required for the dead to reach heaven. The church believes individuals’ ability to choose a religion continues beyond the grave.
Michel plans to show posthumous baptism records to church officials in meetings Sunday and Monday. He says the records prove tens of thousands of Jews, including some who died in Nazi concentration camps, were posthumously baptized over the past 10 years and as recently as last month.
A 1995 agreement signed by Jewish leaders and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints called for an immediate halt to unwanted proxy baptisms. After evidence was found in the church’s massive International Genealogical Index that the baptisms for many Jews – including Anne Frank – continued, the two faiths reaffirmed the agreement in 2002.
Jewish leaders in New York have bitterly complained the baptisms never stopped and last year asked Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton to intervene. She met with Sen. Orrin Hatch, an Utah Republican and Mormon, though neither side would discuss what was said.
The church, too, declined comment Thursday. “The church won’t be commenting at all on this issue for the moment. We are looking forward to discussions with our Jewish guests,” spokeswoman Kim Farah said.
Under the Mormon practice, most Catholic popes have been proxy baptized, as have historical figures such as Ghengis Khan, Joan of Arc, Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin and Buddha, said Helen Radkey, an independent genealogical researcher in Salt Lake City.
However, the church directed its members after 1995 to not include for baptism the names of Jewish Holocaust victims, celebrities and people who aren’t relatives. The church also assumes the closest living relative of the deceased being offered for proxy baptism has consented.